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RING IN THE New Year, bid a fond-- and sometimes not-so-fond -- farewell to the old. The old was the year . . .

The Bills made a New Year's resolution not to bicker -- then kept it.

The Sabres were models of consistency, flunking out in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Then they tried to get another coach fired.

The prospect of major league baseball was met with an enthusiastic roar that has simmered down to a rueful murmur.

George Steinbrenner went too far. The field marshal was drummed out of his imperial box and the Yankees began the long struggle back to respectability.

Jim Kelly was thirtysomething and grew up.

The Russians came but the NHL yawned.

Montreal grew even more indifferent toward the Expos, yet they didn't evolve into the Buffalo Bisons.

Nolan Ryan made every middle-aged man in America think about sucking in his gut.

In baseball, the definition of a million-dollar man was a utility infielder.

Buster Douglas had his 15 minutes of fame and his 48 hours at the buffet table.

Andre Agassi, who looks as if he were evicted from a shelter for the homeless, told us on a TV commercial that "image . . . is everything."

It turned out Lee Trevino wasn't joking when he said the senior golf tour was "the world's greatest Mulligan." He won more money in one year than some pros earn in a career.

Notre Dame football got its own television network.

Canisius and UB played a whale of a football game at the new Demske stadium, but only 1,000 or so fans showed up. Even the schools' alumni are obsessed with pro sports.

Baseball owners, greedy before the Decade of Greed, were even greedier as the '90s began.

The Detroit Bad Boys still owned pro basketball and behind that sweet smile of Isiah Thomas lurked the ghost of Sonny Liston.

Dale Hawerchuk came and Phil Housley went without the desired results in Buffalo or Winnipeg.

The Minnesota Vikings spent part of their summer scaling cliffs, climbing ropes and supporting each other by holding hands at an outward-bound camp, then blew five fourth-quarter leads as they became the NFL's disappointment of the year.

Jim Valvano resigned in disgrace as basketball coach at North Carolina State as the result of a point-shaving scandal. ABC promptly hired him as a TV analyst at boxcar figures.

The Toronto Blue Jays choked again, but this time "Stand" Pat Gillick, their GM, made the biggest baseball trade in years, as well as a bunch of medium-sized transactions. It's said not only is the team refashioned on the field but the air in the locker room is sanitized.

The shelf life of "lifetime bans" in football and track and field turned out to be about 14 months.

Joe Paterno, almost eligible to become a centerfold in Modern Maturity, was re-energized and Penn State had one of its best football teams in years.

Amid arguments about who was No. 1 in college football for 1990, Florida State made its bid for No. 1 in 1991 by beating Penn State in the Blockbuster Bowl.

Larry Bird came back from the athletic dead.

The Edmonton Oilers proved there was life after Gretzky, and Hollywood discovered hockey when Gretzky came to the Forum.

It was the year of the anti-hero in college basketball as UNLV and Jerry Tarkanian, Fagin of the NCAA, won the Final Four.

Charley Hustle wore an eight-digit number on his new uniform.

Dave Dravecky, his career ended by a cancerous tumor in his pitching arm, made people realize there are more important things in life than a $3 million-a-year baseball contract.

Happy New Year!

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